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Winged Grazers Mow Down Eelgrass in San Francisco Bay

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Pamela Reynolds, ZEN Coordinator

By Pamela Reynolds (ZEN Coordinator)

Here at ZEN, when we use the word “grazer” we typically mean the small crustacean and gastropod invertebrates that live on and eat the algae (and sometimes the eelgrass) at our estuarine field sites. But for our partners at the Romberg Tiburon Center For Environmental Studies in California, grazers come with webbed feet, a hiss and a honk.

In San Francisco Bay migrating Canada geese mow down eelgrass beds and may help drive the persistence of separate perennial and annual growth forms within the same bed, says laboratory technician Stephanie Kiriakopolos who studied Zostera marina life history traits for her master’s thesis under ZEN partner Dr. Kathy Boyer at San Francisco State University.

Want to see the geese in action? Check out this video from Stephanie, and the nifty cages the San Francisco ZEN team constructed to keep these winged grazers out of our experiments.

ZEN experiment in San Francisco, California